Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday. As I’ve written here before, a lot of our life together centered around music, and I really miss being able to talk with him about what I’m playing and listening to the way we did.
Some of you may also remember a post I wrote about my grandmother (shown here helping me stay focused at the piano, no easy task!) and my visit to her when she was bedridden a couple of years ago. She passed away a couple of months ago, and recently, I went back to LA to help my mom and aunt clear our her house. While there, I borrowed a cello from the nice folks at Benning Violins (thank you, Laura!), a wonderful violin shop around the corner on Ventura Boulevard, and recorded the next piece in our Bach cycle, the Allemande from the C major Suite, while sitting on her deck (with a very nice view of the San Fernando Valley behind me).
Both my dad and grandma loved Bach. Dad used to say that Bach’s music was “idiot-proof”, and would sound good even on the kazoo. And yes, there are several examples of that on youtube – this one is my favorite. You can see my grandma’s love for Bach in the picture above – there’s a little bust of J.S. sitting on the piano keeping an eye on things (the piano’s name was Sebastian, too).
It makes me laugh to play Bach in LA, a city I am pretty sure Johann Sebastian would not have enjoyed – if there’s a bigger mismatch between a person and a place, I can’t think of it. Although, come to think of it, the Allemande has a relentless optimism to it that actually makes it the perfect LA piece – it’s very sunny! It also fits how I think of both my dad and grandma (who both called LA home), so it’s a perfect way both to wish him a Happy Birthday and to say goodbye to her.
Of the 480 people in the audience at the Saturday night concert, around 100 of them were there because of the school visits – we gave out 57 student tickets (four times the usual amount) and their parents bought 45 more! For those of you keeping score at home, that’s over 20% of the audience. I bet most orchestras would love to boost their attendance numbers that much, especially while also fulfilling their educational mission.
Lest you think I’m taking all the credit here, I was collaborating with some very smart and committed people. Lawton (population around 97,000) is an Army town – Fort Sill is located there, and is the main driver of the local economy. The LPO has an active duty board member from the base, and there are always military members in the audience. Like any orchestra, the LPO has to stay connected to the community, and luckily, they have both a Music Director and Executive Director who are especially good at that.
Jon Kalbfleisch is a great musician and colleague, making all the musicians (including nervous soloists!) feel welcome and excited to do their best, and he is equally good with the LPO’s board and supporters. Jon is relentless in his efforts to keep his hometown orchestra not just surviving, but thriving. Many larger orchestras would be delighted to have someone with his level of both musical and people skills, and Lawton is lucky to have him.
Executive Director Patty Neuwirth came to the orchestra after running several Burger King franchises in the Lawton area, and after seeing her at work, I am now convinced that all arts administration professionals should intern at a fast food restaurant. From her years in a ferociously competitive industry, Patty is focused on the bottom line, has relationships with every business owner in the city, and perhaps most important – she knows marketing. From the moment I hit town, I saw signs about the concert everywhere, on lawns, in store windows and even at intersections:
Ego trip aside, I was impressed with Patty’s willingness to spend real money on advertising– many orchestras aren’t this visible. And it didn’t stop there – there was newspaper coverage and we did a ticket giveaway on the local news, too:
It was a pleasure to work with Jon and Patty, and of course the chance to play the Haydn was a joy. And I was especially grateful that they gave me the chance to show that Bach and Boombox could boost concert attendance, and I’d love to do the same for any orchestra that wants to.
So, if you run an orchestra (or know someone who does), and want to get more people to come to your concerts, please call or e-mail – I am fully committed to helping grow your audience, and I will travel anywhere in the country to do so (with or without playing a concerto!).
One more thing about those attendance numbers – they are the result of just a couple days work. My fee for the school visits came from a modest grant from a local foundation, and was quite a bit less than the orchestra was paying me to play the Haydn. And we can get young professionals to show up too, by presenting the program in a bar, meeting room, church or business. I’ll be doing presentations for adults on behalf of orchestras in Cincinnati and Columbus this summer, and I’ll be sure to report back about the results. In the meantime, the phone lines are open!
It’s been exactly one year since we began this journey through the Bach Cello Suites, and we’re a third of the way – two Suites down and four to go! This music is so vital and vibrant, and I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am.
And because today is #GivingTuesday, I’m asking you to support something I care about deeply. Please click here or the Donate button below the video to make a tax-deductible contribution to 4-Way’sfree education program.
We give lessons and chamber music opportunities to underserved kids here in Cincinnati, and it’s only possible because of your generosity. Thank you very much for your support, and I’ll see you next time, with the Prelude to the 3rd Suite!
Today’s video is on the Minuets from the d minor Suite, and because it’s the biggest shopping day of the year, Bach is offering a great deal on chords. As we’ve seen, once Bach got an idea in his head, he used it for all it was worth, and this movement has more double and triple stops than the entire first Suite (and before you say anything, fellow music nerds, yes, I counted.)
The very first chord will sound especially familiar – watch the video to see yet another example of Bach stealing his own material! And if you’re tired of shopping and want to support a good cause, please click the button below the video to make a donation to the 4-Way String Project. Thanks, and I’ll see you for #GivingTuesday with the Gigue
Over the course of the suites, we’ve heard a lot about Bach’s hectic life, and most of the movements we’ve heard so far have been fast and full of notes. But even Bach got some quiet time, and in today’s Sarabande, we’ll hear something much slower and meditative.
I hope it brings you the peace of mind I get from it, and that I think Bach felt. If you’re enjoying the videos, please consider a contribution to 4-Way’s education program by clicking here, or the button below – thank you!